Waterfall’s Steady Decline and Evolution
While Waterfall is far from dead there is no doubt that it is on a steady decline. In fact, a little over 10% of this year’s survey respondents indicate that they still use waterfall as opposed to other methodologies. Alternative methods include; Agile, blended (some waterfall, some Agile), Kanban and other.
We have several year’s worth of data to compare and a clear pattern has emerged. In 2012 18.5% of respondents said that they utilized Waterfall. In 2013 that number declined to 12.5%. In other words, between 2012 and 2013 approximately one-third of survey respondents had transitioned away from its sole use.
This year’s data clearly indicate that Waterfall’s decline is starting to level off as its annual rate of decline is less than last years. For those who believe waterfall is dead these numbers can be a bit misleading. While it is true that waterfall as a stand-alone methodology has been steadily declining, it is also true that there are a significant number of organizations using blended methodologies (combining some waterfall and some Agile). So it is too soon to declare waterfall’s demise.
It is more appropriate to say that “pure” waterfall continues to play a central role in certain industries that rely upon its attributes. But the data clearly indicate that most organizations are morphing their use of waterfall and not relying upon it as their method of choice. Rather, organizations are now blending waterfall with other methods in order to benefit from it where they can and hedge against its limitations.
In summary, waterfall continues its evolution from a singular way of producing products to becoming an element in the product development methodology portfolio which can be drawn upon – like an arrow in a quiver – when circumstances dictate. Additionally, many organizations have not yet reached this level of proactive selection and are caught between the two worlds of partially implementing Agile and their historical reliance upon waterfall. Anyway you look at it, the use of pure waterfall is in decline but its continued use in a blended format will ensure that it is around for a very long time.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.